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China’s White Paper on Food Security
by Johannes Kluge
Dr. Aihemaitijiang Rouzi
On October 13 2019 the State Council of the People’s Republic of China released a White Paper on “Food security in China”. This paper summarized Chinese achievements in ensuring food security and outlined future strategies and policies. According to the paper China has been actively contributing to global food security governance by not only feeding its own population (one fifth of the world population) but even producing more (one quarter of global food production) than domestic population needs. The white paper also stresses that China is not only self-reliant on food supply but compared to previous years the population has a greater variety of foods. With these achievements the most populated country in the world makes an enormous contribution to UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals. The White Paper consists of four distinct chapters: China’s Achievements in Ensuring Food Security; Food Security in China; Opening Up and International Cooperation; Prospects and Policies.
The first chapter offers detailed background information on the general food security situation in China. Compared to the first White Paper on Food Security published in 1996, China’s per capita food output increased from 414kg to 470kg per hectare yield for rice in 2018, ; wheat and corn has seen rapid increase since 1996. Total food production also increased from 500 million tons in 1996 to 660 million tons in 2015 and is steadily increasing since then. With an output of 610 million tons of grain productions, China has become self-sufficient in grain production and food supply (Fig 1).
Fig 1. Total food output of China 1996-2018
Source: China’s rural statistical year book, 2019
Food storage and reserve capacity is further improved, qualified grain warehouses stood at 670 million tons, and that of simple warehouses was 240 million tons and warehouse capacity grew by 31.9%, since 1996. The population has a greater choice of foods; per capita consumption of oil, meat, aquatic products, milk, vegetable and fruits are all increased to satisfy the growing demand of Chinese people. The food shares per capita greatly improved as well, with especially large increases in milk (333%), meat (55%), aquatic products (72%), vegetables (104%) and fruits (176%) as shown in table 1.
Tab 1. Per capita of foods in kg/year
Source: White Paper 2019
China has reduced the poverty rate from 10.2% in 2012 to 1.7% in 2018 and became the first country to achieve the poverty reduction goals of the UN millennium development goals.
The second chapter Food Security in China covers the steady increase of grain production and quality of arable land. The Chinese government set a red line which keeps at least 120 million hectares of cultivated land. At present, China has 134.88 million hectares of cultivated land which is increased by 4.8 million hectares since 1996 (Fig 2). North China became a basis for large scale production of wheat, corn and soy beans, the Yangtze River economic belt is used as a double cropping rice and wheat production region, Northwest China is established as an emerging potato and corn producing region. China has invested in upgrading irrigation, water conservation and other agricultural infrastructure to speed up the efficient production of grains. In 2006, China abolished all agricultural taxes which existed for 2600 years to fundamentally reduce farmers’ burden. At present, there are approximately 600,000 family farms, 2.17 million farmers’ cooperative and 370,000 social services organizations in China. The country also committed to market and institutional reforms in order to achieve efficient production and allocation of food resources.
Fig 2. Total food crop area of China 1998-2018
Source: China’s rural statistical year book, 2019
The third chapter Opening Up and International Cooperation promoted the development of food governance. Especially since joining the WTO, China actively reduced tariffs and lowered barriers of food commodities which accelerated the integration of China into international food trade. In 2018, China imported 115.55 million tons of oil crops (including soybeans), feed and other crops and exported 3.66 million tons of food, imports increased by 945% and export grew by 175% compared to 1996. China has been actively participating in world food governance. Along with the FAO, China jointly implemented more than 20 multi-lateral South-South cooperation programs and sent more than 1100 experts to countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America for capacity building. China has provided assistance to more than 50 African countries in implementing nearly 500 agricultural related programs and projects such as technical support in irrigation technology, food storage, food processing and agricultural machinery and so on. China also participated in various initiatives proposed by the FAO and the World Food Program and committed to implement the UN 2030 sustainable development goals as well; developing its own agenda and releasing a progress report. Given the complexities of the ongoing trade war with the United States and China’s expanding cooperation with Belt and Road countries, China’s commitment to agricultural opening up has become important more than ever.
In chapter four, Prospects and Policies, it is stated that China will set red lines and targets to ensure food security (table 2).
Tab 2. Red lines to ensure food security set for 2020
Source: White paper 2019
It is also planned to reform agricultural institutions and enhance technological innovation in grain production as well as to improve emergency grain reserves by upgrading grain monitoring and pre-warning systems. Another goal is to improve grain storage and logistics and build modern grain circulation system. The south-south cooperation and work with Belt and Road countries to facilitate a free and orderly trade of agricultural products and further engagement in global and regional food governance are on the agenda as well.
In conclusion, the White Paper describes various achievements and progresses in ensuring food security in the last 25 years, sets out clear targets and goals for the upcoming decade and provides a draft for China’s national food security policy and its potential global contribution to meet the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goals.
- White paper on Food Security in China by State council information office (https://www.scio.gov.cn/zfbps/ndhf/39911/Document/1666230/1666230.htm, accessed on November 12, 2019).
- China rural statistical year book, China statistics press, Beijing, China, 2019 (http://cyfd.cnki.com.cn/N2019030220.htm, accessed on November 12, 2019).